Portfolio.com speculates about the future of mass customization in a recent post examining the footwear industry. The idea is that although people may like a product's function, they may desire certain superficial changes, such as color or texture. Traditionally we've unconsciously accepted the lack of choice when we're staring at the display case in Wal-Mart and went on to purchase the functional, albeit less than perfect item.
But now it appears that several companies are offering the ability to order customized versions of products. Examples cited in the article: Kleenex boxes, your initials on M&M chocolates, images on Ked's canvas shoes.
Here's the interesting part, according to Joe Pine, author of Mass Customization:
We’re training people to getting used to getting exactly what they want. That creates a snowball effect and they’re going to start demanding it from other companies.
First it's the color, then it's the quality, then the functionality, and eventually a vast amount of control over the design. That's where we're heading. 3D printing will likely have a big role in a world where consumers are constantly expecting customizations.